Study: 13 gigatonnes of annual CO2 cuts by 2020 — 3/4 of what is needed for 450 ppm path globally — can be met at net savings of $14 billion

UNpaper_figure1This joint release is from the Center for American Progress and United Nations Foundation.   Download the full report here (pdf).

New York, NY”” The United Nations Foundation and the Center for American Progress presented today an analysis of “core elements” needed to combat climate change. In a press conference call, U.N. Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth and Center for American Progress President John D. Podesta also spoke about the ongoing U.N.-led negotiations toward a new international climate agreement.

“This report once again demonstrates that attending to climate change is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Concerted and cooperative international action to get us on a pathway to a global 20 percent renewable electricity standard and halving deforestation by 2020 is the most cost-effective way to achieve our midterm emissions reductions goals. Just as important, improvements in energy efficiency across the board will pay for it all and generate new revenue to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate change they are already experiencing.” said Center for American Progress President John Podesta.

Achievable gains in energy efficiency, renewable energy, forest conservation, and sustainable land use worldwide could achieve up to 75 percent of needed global emissions reductions in 2020 at a net savings of $14 billion, according to analysis done for the United Nations Foundation by Project Catalyst:

  • Increasing the rate of global energy efficiency improvement to 2.0 percent by 2015 (from current rate of 1.25 percent) would reduce emissions by 12 percent below business as usual in 2020, or 5.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or GtCO2e, and would yield a net savings in 2020 of $98 billion.
  • Deriving 20 percent of the world’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 would reduce emissions in 2020 by 10 percent below business as usual, or 1.3 GtCO2e, at a net cost in 2020 of $34 billion.
  • Reducing the annual rate of tropical deforestation 50 percent by 2020 and increasing the amount of land under sustainable management though habitat restoration and sustainable forestry, agriculture, and livestock practices would reduce emissions in 2020 by over 50 percent from business as usual, or 6.5 GtCO2e, at a net cost in 2020 of $51 billion.

These actions, along with immediate investments of $1-2 billion to implement National Adaptation Programs of Action for the least developed and most vulnerable countries, would make a sizeable and immediate contribution to solving the climate problem and provide a valuable foundation for a new agreement in Copenhagen.

“A new international agreement is urgently needed to address climate change,” said U.N. Foundation President Timothy Wirth. “It must include emission reduction targets by developed countries, nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries, financial assistance to developing countries, and technology cooperation.

“Core elements of a new agreement include areas where all countries, both developed and developing, can take immediate action to reduce emissions””action that also supports sustainable development, economic growth, energy security, and public health.”

10 Responses to Study: 13 gigatonnes of annual CO2 cuts by 2020 — 3/4 of what is needed for 450 ppm path globally — can be met at net savings of $14 billion

  1. Erik says:

    Efficiency is the first route, the best part of the cost curve to mine.

    The NY Times has an insightful article today titled “Energy Efficiency Ranks High in China’s Plans; CO2 Is Seldom Discussed” that is worth a read –

  2. ecostew says:

    WASHINGTON — EPA honored 37 organizations today with its 2009 SmartWay Excellence Awards for slashing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and saving fuel through significant improvements to their freight operations.

    “EPA’s SmartWay partnership helps freight companies go the extra mile by saving fuel and money, while cutting air pollution,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “Within our nation’s hard-working freight sector, SmartWay Excellence Award winners have stepped up to help protect our health, climate and environment.”

    These organizations are setting an example in the transportation industry, addressing climate change by investing in clean truck technologies, adopting freight management strategies that reduce carbon emissions, and promoting the benefits of the SmartWay Transport Partnership. Winners were recognized across four categories (carrier, shipper, logistics, affiliate) at a ceremony held in conjunction with the American Trucking Association’s Annual Management Conference & Exhibit in Las Vegas.

    EPA launched SmartWay in 2004 to help improve the freight industry’s environmental performance. Today more than 2,000 organizations participate, ranging from large multi-national trucking fleets, several rail companies, many well-known retail and commercial shippers, as well as small “mom and pop” trucking companies.

    Through their SmartWay participation, these companies both calculate and adopt strategies for lowering their transportation energy use and CO2 emissions. EPA provides technical support, including tools to evaluate options for lowering fuel use and emissions, and help in locating financing for the purchase of environmental and fuel saving technology.

    In 2009, the partnership projects that it will eliminate six million tons of CO2 and conserve more than 540 million gallons of diesel fuel, a savings of at least $1.3 billion a year in fuel costs.

    More information on SmartWay in general:

  3. pete best says:

    Is this the rest of the world doing this then and the USA doing it 2.5% of 1990 emissions and really digging deap to help out. By 2020 not a lot would have happened and thats the truth of the matter and people need to stop gawping into a place of empty promises and face reality of the situation.

    I wish that the report was enacted on and wish that it could be but its not going to be unless we get a massive agreement of copenhagen then its not even going to get off the ground.

  4. From Peru says:

    75% reduction in emissions?

    It is not being maybe too optimistic?

    The report says that just with 20% renewable electric power and a 0,75% improvement in energy efficiency emissions plus halving defdorestation one can obtain such a reduction.

    Well, deforestation emits aproximately 3GTon of C02, Fossil fuels 6-7 GTons. With that, considering development in China and India , a more realistic scenario seems to me a notable reduction in fossil fuel emissions *acceleration* plus halving deforestation emissions, probably just enough to avoid the IPCC A1F1 scenario and falling to just the A1.

    So, just a 4ºC warming by end of century!

    Still Hell(a little less scorching)and High Water(some centimeter less in sea level rise)

    What do you think?

    [JR: I think you don’t read the posts or studies linked to in the posts. This study was about three strategies that can achieve 3/4 of the emissions reductions needed by 2020 to get on the 450 ppm path. That’s it.]

  5. David B. Benson says:

    As rapidly as possible, replace all coal burners by combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs). For the USA alone, that would eliminate 24% of the nation’s CO2 emissions. Even better, only fire up the CCGTs when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow. That’ll scale it back even further. Still better, replace natural gas by biomethane to shave off some more.

  6. Stephan says:

    That would be a good start, 25% to go if these goals will be met. If only these cuts can already reduce our CO2 emissions that significantly, we can reduce them a lot further combining all other CO2 cuts as well. However, it is time to act now in order to be succesful.

    The video in this Green News shows what the consequences might be when we don’t act now.

  7. James says:

    FYI – the two links to the report and the link to the audio at the bottom of your post go via your webmail, and hence don’t work.

    [JR: Deleted for now.]

  8. JeandeBegles says:

    Joe, I have a problem with these figures. You announce 13 Gt CO2 saved by 2020.

    In 2006, according to the IEA, the CO2 output (from fossil fuel without deforestation) was 28,5 Gt CO2. So your announcement would be close to a 50% saving from 2006 level: how could this ever be possible?
    Thank you for your answer.

    [JR: Please read the report! This includes deforestation and is against projected 2020 levels.]

    I have 2 more topics to propose to you:

    First, our french taca organisation gathered 600 people last sunday in Bordeaux for a carbon free picnic. We have a nice photo of the event related to Can you write something about this success. I can send you a text in english (our web site is

    Second. We think that the right unit of measure is Carbon, not CO2. If you count tne carbon (forgetting the O2 that is no problem) it is much easier. The carbon you pump in the atmosphere is the carbon you burn in your engine (for a car, and for a plane, and for a heater as well).

    The geologists already count in carbon, because they are aware of the carbon cycle.

    More, 1 carbon kilo represents, roughly, what you pump in the atmosphere using 1 litre of gasoline.

    Chimically speaking 1 litre of gasoline is roughly 0,7 Carbon kilo.

    You have to add the carbon used to extract, refine and ship this litre of gasoline. It is assessed at 0,1Carbon kilo roughly.

    You have also to add the carbon used to build your car (or the plane you use) and to maintain it: it represents no less than 0,2 carbon kilo.

    The addition is simple and the result easy to remind:

    1 carbon kilo = the use of 1 gasoline litre.

    And there is also the approximation 1 carbon kilo = the use of 1 coal kilo (in italian carbone means coal, charbon in french!).

    I am sure that a respected journalist like you on this important topic could convince some leaders that the carbon kilo is the right unit to get people involved in the carbon cuts we have to perform.


    [JR: I have written at length about the C vs CO2 issue. The public and most businesses understand CO2. In general, I have tried to use both, but since this was mostly a reposting, I didn’t. If I had to choose one, though, it’d be CO2.]

  9. Allan Shepard says:

    CO2 is a weightless invisible gas. Would someone please tell me how and why writers speak of gigatonnes etc.How is it measured?

  10. CO2 is not weightless; no material substance is. As to its visibility, this is entirely irrelevant insofar as its mass is concerned. Take a gas-tight container, and measure that container by itself in a vacuum chamber. That will give you the weight of the container. Now fill the container with some gas, and seal it (remember, “gas-tight”) put it back in the vacuum chamber and measure it again. This will now give the weight of the container and the gas inside it.

    The reason for the vacuum chamber is because a volume of gas will displace other gasses, and depending on the respective gasses and the volumes displaced, one can have a floating effect. This is why balloons rise when filled with helium, but sink when just filled with breath. Similarly, an aircraft carrier will weigh in the neighborhood of 90,000+ tons yet still float on water because the weight of the water it displaces compensates for its own mass. So if you place that helium filled baloon in the air, it will rise; place it in a vacuum chamber, and it will sit there with a force differential equal to the weight of the helium.

    The volume of a gas is variable depending on the pressure to which it is subjected, so speaking of the release of CO2 in terms of volumes is largely meaningless. However, the mass of a gas is a constant, regardless of its volume or pressure, and that mass will translate into a fairly standard weight in the presence of a relatively uniform gravitational field such as that in the region so close to the earth’s surface that we call the atmosphere.